Q: How to deal with harsh or negative comments by the third reviewer?
I submitted a paper to a reputed journal (Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences) and after two months I received an editorial decision of Major Revision. In that case, three reviewers were invited and out of those, two gave positive reviews whereas the other review was negative and possibly recommended rejection. Anyways, I made the revisions and addressed the concerns of the reviewers and resubmitted the manuscript. After two months, I received a Major revision decison once again. This time the editor had sent the paper to three reviewers again and the opinions were split. Two reviewers again gave positive comments and recommended that the article can be published after some minor revisions. The third reviewer's comments were extremely nasty and suggested rejection straightaway. Now I am confused what to do? Is this is a sign of eventual rejection, even though the editor has given it Major Revision? I do not even know, how much importance the editor has given to the nasty comments by the Third Reviewer and also how should I respond to those nasty comments? I would be very grateful if the experts here help me out with this.
I can understand what you are going through. However, you are not alone in this: many authors receive harsh or negative peer reviewer comments from reviewers at some point of time. Ideally, reviewers should not give comments that are hurtful to the author. They can point out the negative aspects of a manuscript, but cannot give comments that are offensive or demeaning to the author.
Having said that, editors are quite used to receiving conflicting comments and recommendations from reviewers and are capable of forming an objective and unbiased view. The editor will definitely take into consideration the comments of all three reviewers to arrive at a decision; there is no reason to believe that the editor will pay more attention to the negative comments of "the third reviewer" than the positive ones.
Regarding responding to the harsh or negative peer reviewer comments, you should deal with them as you would deal with any other comment. Give a point-by-point response to the comments, mentioning whether you agree or disagree with them. If you disagree with some of the comments, provide your reasons for doing so. I know it can be very disturbing to receive such comments.
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